Scotland

Glasgow 2014: Regenerating the city beyond the finish line

  • 1 August 2014
  • From the section Scotland
Row of empty shops
Beyond the Finish Line aims to tackle the scourge of empty shops and other spaces

With the Commonwealth Games now entering its final stages, most of the attention has been paid to the elite sports - but what about afterwards?

The Beyond the Finish Line project aims to help young entrepreneurs start up their own social enterprises.

Given legacy status by Glasgow City Council, it hopes to address the scourge of empty shops and other spaces in our cities.

In a shop front in Glasgow's Trongate, two young women are carefully covering a dark wood dressing table in paint before it is decorated.

They are creating a new lease of life for an old piece of furniture by "upcycling".

The workspace, which is being occupied on a temporary basis, is in a unit which has been empty for three years.

"You're getting quality hardwood furniture that's lasted a lifetime and will last another lifetime to come," says Sophie Steele from Glasgow-based Treemendus, which is among those taking part in the project.

She says modern decoration and design help to convert old furniture into something which is "unique".

They get items from different places including donations, charity shops and roadsides.

Treemendus staff undertake upcycling on furniture
Treemendus specialises in upcycling old items of furniture

As well as renovating and modernising furniture, they also find new uses for things, like turning old suitcases into animal beds. They also teach people to upcycle.

"There's so many spaces in the high street just lying empty, going into disrepair, so it's something that we were really excited about," continues Ms Steele.

"We're actually taking over a space in September and it's been lying dormant for over a year now - probably more. So we're excited about getting in there and bringing that street back to life."

Shauna Gray, the other half of Treemendus, says the shop has been their "dream" since they started.

Beyond the Finish Line involves projects ranging from confidence workshops for young women to reuse of construction waste.

Mairi Hutchinson of the artists' collective Little Book Transfers
Mairi Hutchinson of the artists' collective Little Book Transfers looks at ways to improve empty shops

It then sets them the challenge of developing ideas to regenerate their high streets through social enterprise and making creative use of empty or underused spaces.

"We set it up to build on the buzz and the momentum of the Commonwealth Games," says Karen McGregor, chief executive of Firstport, which is one of the agencies delivering the project.

"We were looking for innovative and creative ideas for young people to use their imagination to find new ways to solve old problems.

"We were looking for people to come up with new ways where we could offer new experiences on the high street."

She said it would be a positive outcome from the project if landlords were to rethink how they approach leasing.

"Short-term, businesses would benefit more from a short-term lease - but the landlord also benefits because it is bringing more footfall into an area which was perhaps underused and is showing the space in a more invigorating way that might encourage other leaseholders to consider that space in the future."

Not far away is a large, empty shop. So what could be done with it?

Mairi Hutchinson is from the artists' collective Little Book Transfers, which specialises in free-hand wall murals and illustrations.

"I'm thinking flowing illustrations on the windows, maybe something inside," she says.

"Even if there was to be a business in there, we could use our illustrations to promote that business."

Aquaponics bike
Urban Catch has built what it says is the world's first aquaponics bike

Another participant on the project involves a rather unusual-looking contraption which is taken out to schools and other groups.

Water is pumped into a small fish tank which is fixed, rather incongruously, to the front of a bike alongside a solar panel. Growing in pots above this are strawberries and herbs.

"We're standing in front of what is, as far as I'm aware, the world's first aquaponics bike," explains Sinead Fortune of Urban Catch.

"We figured we needed a fun and engaging way of making aquaponics mobile for events, and things like that, so we put a very small system on a bike."

Ms Fortune wants to bring aquaponics and sustainability education to Glasgow.

She explains that aquaponics is a system of growing food using plants and fish together in a closed-loop ecosystem.

But how could this help the issue of empty spaces and shops in the city?

"One of the brilliant things about aquaponics is that it can be grown anywhere, so it works really well in derelict buildings, on rooftops, things like that," she adds.

Her goal is to set up a centre on the main street and get people to think about how their food is grown.

"It can be grown in that building that's not being used down the road if you have the right material," she says.

"People need to relearn the skills of how to grow their own food. That's our goal - to use some of the unused spaces in the city for good use."

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